Now you can get ‘reality on demand’ for just £3.99 a month! Really? Reality on demand? Or constructed reality on demand – that’s more like it! What would Baudrillard think of the new channel where you can see all the reality TV you want on demand? He would be horrified. A whole new world, where constructed reality, hypereality becomes the norm.
In case TOWIE turns your stomach….you could choose to talk about MiC instead. Just a posher version of TOWIE – that’s all.
Above is a really good blog post on hypereality and Made in Chelsea.
Made in Chelsea paints a very vivid picture of the rich and elite in London. From an outsider looking in, it suggests to a large extent that all ‘English’ people live this way. I have friends from different countries who have said to me ‘Is that what England is like?’ (referring to the show) …well quite simply no. London is very diverse and has many different cultures, yet Made in Chelsea does not have one ethnic person in the show. Whilst it is true that Chelsea is very elite, not everyone who lives there is white (believe it or not). Yet the programme tells another story.
This show definitely blurs the distinction between fiction and documentary and soap opera. The cast are exposed by producers in a certain way to show them off as distinct characters that the audience can relate to for entertainment purposes. Spencer is shown as the ‘villain’ of the show, Jamie, Proudlock and Francis are shown as the ‘laddish’ bachelors and the girls Lucy, Rosie and Louise etc. are the upper class women, who are obsessed with material possessions and their taste in fashion is nothing less than a six figure digit. The whole aesthetic of the programme is to exude wealth, high society members and their lavish lifestyles, which is somewhat a fantasy for many of the viewers.
Consumer Culture – features all the right brands: Harrods, Dorchester Hotel, Sloane Square etc. The programme is even sponsored by Rimmel – Get the London Look. You too could be this gorgeous!
Hegemony – capitalist, bourgeois, conservative view on life. Work hard and you too could be like this. The fact that most of the characters are wealthy by inheritance and none of them seem to do a day’s work between them is irrelevant. Capitalism pays off and MiC is evidence of this (the fact that it is completely constructed and contrived should not deter you from aspiring to this lifestyle). This is quite a good powerpoint on examples of ‘hegemony’ in action – it is very USA based but you will get the idea of how the messages of what is right, expected and wrong are constantly reinforced from ‘up above’ or ‘elsewhere’ although there are some steps to counteract this mindset, as you will see at the end of the presentation.
Hypereality – the blurring between the real people and their on screen characters is blurred. This is endorsed by them tweeting when it is unclear as to whether they are ‘in character’ or as themselves. We talk about them as though they are real.
Simulacra – the original becomes irrelevant. We believe the simulated world. This is how it is. We value the simulated world more than we do the ‘real’ world.
Watch any of the other ‘scripted reality’ TV shows – The Real Housewives series, Geordie Shore, The Only Way is Essex and you will see exactly the same elements that indicate they are part of this type of postmodern phenomena.
The other TV shows – so called ‘reality fly on the wall’ shows – that are less scripted i.e. KUWTK, Dance Moms, Teen Mom are still no less constructed. See an extract below from an article that outlines how the new series of Teen Mom will now be produced without the 4th wall.
Are you happy this season breaks the fourth wall and shows production?
Maci: I love it. Before, such a huge part of our life was hidden and it was hard to be 100 percent real because we’re pretending we’re not on TV or that we don’t have a million followers on Twitter. Also, there are many situations in the past when we’re filming a scene and we’re aggravated and all of our anger is escalated because there are people in your house, audio, lights, cameras and then you have a kid running around who can’t get up because [production] doesn’t want to mess up the scene, so on top of the aggravation from what’s really going on, you have all this other sh–. It’ll really show how overwhelming being on a TV show is.
This is evidence that the TV show was completely constructed – think about it – the baby is crying but the camera crew is not ready so you can’t pick up the baby to comfort it. How ‘managed’ ‘unreal’ the footage must have been.
These shows created a ‘preferred reality’ as it has more drama, tension and clashes. When Big Brother started out, they made the fatal mistake of not choosing characters that were interesting enough to sustain an audience. Now, they deliberately choose participants who will create drama and increase viewing figures.
But what is it about our voyeuristic tendencies? Even in Roman times we loved seeing people fight to the death in the arena, Have we really not come that far from that kind of barbarity? Think of all the ‘pranked’ videos you watch online – enjoying laughing at people’s misfortune.
Perhaps we have not evolved as far as we had hoped in terms of being civilised. It makes an uncomfortable thought.
Gogglebox is a ‘reality’ TV show (although in my opinion no reality TV is actually proper reality, but that’s another blog post altogether!) in which participants sit at home and watch TV, commenting on it all the while for our entertainment. Gogglebox celebrates the world of television and invites us to critically watch what’s on TV through the eyes of other people, so in a sense we are analysing TV through a TV show. We are being invited to watch a TV show about TV shows, it’s a TV show about its own medium that invites people, both participants and the viewers at home, to mock, laugh at and celebrate everything that comes to our screens at home. Gogglebox sounds like a bizarre TV show, watching people watch TV, but is actually strangely entertaining! And what is perhaps most ironic is that the armchair critics that participate in the show have gone on to become minor celebrities and the show itself is winning Television awards. Totally, self-referential – self-reflexivity at its very best!
The philosopher Plato wrote a famous work called ‘The Republic’.
He wrote The Republic as a series of conversations, which often featured Plato’s famous teacher Socrates. Here is the translated text of the ‘Allegory of the Cave’:
An allegory is a story in which characters and events stand for real life situations.
‘Socrates begins by asking Glaucon (Plato’s brother) to imagine a cave inhabited by prisoners who have been imprisoned since childhood. These prisoners have been imprisoned in such a way that their legs and necks are fixed, forcing them to gaze at a wall in front of them, unable to move their heads. Behind the prisoners is a fire, and between the fire and the prisoners is a raised walkway. Along this walkway is a low wall, behind which people walk carrying objects “…including figures of men and animals made of wood, stone and other materials.”. In this way, the walking people are compared to puppeteers and the low wall to the screen over which puppeteers display their puppets. Since these walking people are behind the wall on the walkway, their bodies do not cast shadows on the wall faced by the prisoners, but the objects they carry do. The prisoners cannot see any of this behind them, being only able to view the shadows cast upon the wall in front of them. There are also echoes off the shadowed wall of sounds the people walking on the road sometimes make, which the prisoners falsely believe are caused by the shadows.’
Socrates suggests that, for the prisoners, the shadows of artifacts would constitute reality. They would not realize that what they see are shadows of the artifacts, which are themselves inspired by real humans and animals outside of the cave.
Here is a video version of the allegory:
This allegory can be usefully applied to postmodern ideas about the media:
We are the prisoners
The media is the fire and the puppeteers who cast shadows
We think of the media as ‘reality’
We will be free if we can see beyond and behind the illusion.
Or as Russell Brand suggests: ‘Look for the light source itself, don’t follow the shadows on the wall.‘ – in other words, look beyond the images and try and find the truth, whatever that is.
Here is a music video which exemplifies many of these ideas:
I think that the way that football spectatorship has been copied & recopied by a succession of media texts has lead us to a state of hyper-reality. I’ll try to illustrate:
Grass roots / local football (The Real Thing)
The real thing, standing at the touchline watching a football game in real time, with no media to enhance our experience.
Stadium Football (The Real Thing Max)
A spectator watches a football match from a static position in a stadium, often far away from the action, although the size of the occasion adds to the emotional impact of the spectacle. They watch the match in real time, although their spectatorship is enhanced by replays on a large screen. Also there is music and other entertainment to keep people occupied.
Football on TV – A copy of stadium max, maxed
Cutting to MCU to see individual players
Football on TV follows the action as if we were a spectator in the stands, but also cuts between different camera angles, gives us replays, a running commentary with extra information and ‘expert’ opinion gives us insights into the style of play and management decisions. Also creates player/celebrities and heightens drama .
Fifa – A copy of a copy of stadium max
Fifa simulates the football on TV experience, but goes further. The spectator is now the player, from the POV of a fan in the stands. Except now the camera tracks with the player that the audience is on control of. It includes the voice over commentary to simulate the TV watching experience. Players can play any team they like, play the role of the manager and also enter leagues and goals of the month competitions.
Here is a community page about Fifa in which players organise Fifa tournaments, chat about Fifa, give each other tips, compare management strategies, compete in leagues with each other and other groups. Baudrillard would say that these people are in a state of Hyper-reality, where they feel involved in football but completely removed from the real thing and that don’t really understand football as it is in real life, only as it exists in the media.
Baudrillard is the next theorist we are going to explore in the unit on Postmodern Media.
He takes Jameson’s ideas about media and starts exploring what impact these will have on the audience. He suggested a number of key ideas:
Consumer Culture: We are living in a world in which we define ourselves through the product we buy and the brands we support. Consumption is not just about need, it’s also about personal identity.
Hegemony: That we are controlled / conditioned by the media, which encourages us to buy into a culturally dominant set of ideas, as Russell Brand said, ‘..to keep us spell bound and stupid, it’s bread and circuses.’
Simulacra: As Jameson says we have lost contact with the original idea (or referent) through the continued recycling of ideas and images. Baudrillard takes this one step further and suggests that we now believe that the copy of the copy of the copy is reality. We are like the prisoners in the Allegory of Plato’s Cave.
Hyper-Reality: By living in a world of recycled images and ideas that have lost the connection to the original idea/image we are the boundaries between reality and media reality are becoming blurred and confused. In other words, we are all residents in the media reality, which are merely shadows on the wall.
Here is a PowerPoint on these ideas and which gives two thought provoking examples:
Chained to the Rythmn, which you have already examined, includes many references both in its comments and the way it is constructed that would fit with Baudrillard’s criticisms of Postmodern Media and Postmodern times. Try and identify where she seems to be referring to Hyper-reality, Consumer Culture, Simulacra & Hegemony.
Hyper-reality – Theme Parks, Tablet obsession, 3D, Living life through the lens, living in a bubble.
Consumer Culture – Hamster Wheel, The American Dream,
Simulacra – Theme parks
Hegemony – Chained to the rythmn, you think you’re free, zombies, 2.4 Nuclear family.
There are three broad areas of research to help you give Postmodernism a framework, a context which will help you understand Postmodernism:
individually research one of the key contextual areas. Find images and single sentences try and explain the meaning or significance of the following.
Use the links and presentations in the following post to help you with ideas. We will go through the powerpoint in the next lesson.
The Enlightenment (The Age of Reason)
WW1 (Industrialisation of War)
WW2 (The Holocaust & Nuclear Bombs dropped on Japan)
Modernism (When? Who? What are the modernists trying to achieve?)
The Rise of Mass Media (The ‘mass’ audience)
The death of the author (Barthes)
Subverting Convention (Playing with Previous Texts)
What is Art? (Challenging high art / low art)
Remixing Previous Ideas (Eclecticism)
Create 2 google slides, for each subsection of your research. It should include one or two images and at the most one sentence per image, which explain why they are significant in understanding Postmodernism. Find examples that illustrate the findings too.
Your teacher will be around to discuss your research, but don’t ask for help until you have explored at least three research sources.
If you understand how Unilever have marketed Marmite over the last few years, you will begin to understand the basics of what constitutes a piece of media being classes as ‘postmodern’.
Have a look at these slides and discuss how Marmite has been sold – what hooks, enablers, slogans have they used to attract our attention and to communicate the message that Marmite should at least be tried.
A really interesting analysis of The Lego Movie and why it is a postmodern film.
Try and find your own examples from your own film and TV consumption. There are loads of examples out there and the more you can evidence your ideas in the exam with up to date examples to illustrate your debate, the better your mark will be.
1975 are prone to making fun of themselves, being self-reflexive and making a comment on pop music and its predictability. Do you remember at the 2017 Brit Awards they gave a performance that many thought had been ‘hacked’ on TV as irreverent, critical, social media type warrior key board comments appeared as if ‘trolls’ had taken over.
This music video is self-reflexive. Draws attention to itself in a shameless way. Pokes a finger up at celebrity culture – he ‘ribs’ himself about his celebrity lifestyle. Read this Article for more background.
The more up to date you can be with your POMO case studies the better. The more you can talk about POMO media in your lives, the better. The American elections are clearly current so you could mention the tendency to parody Donald Trump is a great example of parody and intertextuality.
Don’t be frightened about the term ‘postmodern’. If the context confuses you i.e. what went before that is not overly important. In fact why not just approach the topic as this is us looking at the media that surrounds us at the moment and we are looking at various criteria that can be used to analyse, critique and review it.
Postmodern is a term used to describe much of contemporary media that surrounds us today! SIMPLES – and is can be analysed, critiqued in reference to various ideas, theories, terms etc.
Here are the key ideas that encapsulate what postmodernism is all about:-
is a movement from the late 20th century
represents a departure from modernism
rejects the idea of status/ value
makes fun of existing texts – parody/satire
is a critique of what we assume to be real
copies ideas/styles from existing texts
suggests there is no absolute ‘truth’ – merely socially constructed truths
gives a skeptical interpretation
is a reinterpretation of classical ideas, forms and practices
questions our perception of art
distrusts dominant ideologies
plays with reality
challenges ‘fixed’ ideologies
challenges the rebellion of modernism
it is playful
blurs reality and representation
it looks to the past
is really hard to define
to name just a few things…
Some key terms that we will consider over the coming weeks – pastiche, parody, quotation, intertextuality, loss of historical reality, cultural competence, hyper reality, simulacra, consumer culture, hegemony, grand narratives.
The coursework is over. ‘The Blog is dead. Long live the Blog!‘ (this, by the way, is an intertextual reference with a hint of parody, so could be classed as an example of postmodern literacy BUT OF COURSE you have to be culturally competent to get it!!)
But what the heck is Postmodernism?
Baudrillard was a cool French guy
Who constantly makes media students cry
Hyperreality is now a real thing
You can get paid even if you can’t sing
So set your sights high
For a media ride you should try
Postmodernism is the thing……postmodernism is King!
Does any of this make sense? The above is a Limerick penned by an A2 student, that in 5 short weeks will make complete and utter sense.
By Easter, you will be ready and armed with textual references and theorists galore so that you can answer Section 2 of the A2 paper. The essay is worth 50 marks and should take about an hour to write in the exam. So it is an extremely important part of your A2 course. Heads down…..brains engage.
Off we goooo….
A postmodern joke – get it? No…?
This is a slide show which tries to explain a definition of Postmodernism:
Still stuck? Here is a more complete explanation
How would you define Postmodernism in 20 words? If you can do it, you are a super scholar! Even university professors seem to struggle to agree, but it would be good to have a go. Read the following to see if it helps.